Monday, September 16, 2019

"J-Curve" by Paul Miller

This morning I finished reading J-Curve by Paul Miller. It was one of the most profound things I've absorbed in the last several years. Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

"Acing the Test" [Matt's Messages]

“Acing the Test”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
September 15, 2019 :: Matthew 22:23-40

This is Crucial Week for Jesus.

On Sunday, He rode into town on a donkey signaling His kingship and humility at the same time.

On Monday, He tossed tables in the temple, protesting the profiteering going on His Father’s house.

Here on Tuesday, He has been tousling with the Jewish Religious Leaders.

They have been trying to stump Him and stop Him.

Asking by what authority He is doing these things.

And He answered their question with a question.

He answered their stumper with a stumper so that they didn’t want to answer.

And then He told three parables that made it clear that is doing all this all on the authority of Who He is as the Son of God.

But they haven’t stopped trying to stump Him and stop Him.

They asked if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar.

Trying to put Jesus between a Rock and Hard Place.

But Jesus doesn’t stop when it gets hard.

And He answers their question with a question.

“Whose image” is on that coin?

So “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s?”

And whose image is stamped on you and me?

I want to title this sermon, “Acing the Test.”

Because that’s what Jesus is doing, isn’t it?

Every question they come at Him with, He answers.

Often with a bigger and better question!

Jesus is acing the test.

And, as it turns out, is giving a test right back as He does.

Last week, the question came from the Pharisees and the Herodians, an unlikely combination, but politics makes strange bedfellows.

Neither the Pharisees nor the Herodians wanted Jesus to be their Lord.

The next question is going to come from another group, one we’ve heard about already in the Gospel of Matthew back in chapter 3 and chapter 16.

It’s the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were a group within the ruling class of Israel that had a distinct set of beliefs.

They only believed in the first 5 books of the Old Testament. What we call the Pentateuch or the Torah. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

That was their Bible.

They didn’t accept the rest of the Old Testament as inspired and authoritative for today.

And they also didn’t believe in the doctrine of the resurrection. V.23

“That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.”

The Sadducees did not believe that there was going to be a resurrection from the dead.

And so, as the saying goes, they were “Sad, You See!”

Actually, they were not very sad in general. They were rich and successful and powerful. So they were often earthly happy.

And they scoffed at the idea of the resurrection.

In fact, they thought that anyone who believed in the resurrection was ridiculous.

They said that the resurrection wasn’t taught in the Torah, and therefore it didn’t exist.

And they went further than that. They actually didn’t believe in the immortality of the soul.

They thought that when you die, that was it.

Those were the Sadducees. And it’s their turn to take a swipe at Jesus.

They come up to Jesus to play stump the chump.

They want Jesus to be laughed at and mocked and discredited.

So, they bring their best game. Their best stumper of a question.

This is a question that has always worked for them so far. They’ve used it to stump the Pharisees before. They think it’s a killer question.

And they think that it will stump Jesus.

Let’s read the question, and then we’ll pray before we see how Jesus answers. V.24

“‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’”

There’s the test.

You know that Jesus is going to ace it.

How will He do it?

Have you ever had anyone scoff at what you believe?

Have you ever had someone treat your beliefs as ridiculous, as absurd?

It can really make you feel bad.

It can make you feel like there is something wrong with you.

That maybe you’re missing out on what everyone else knows.

Maybe it’s your view of creation.

Maybe it’s your understanding of marriage.

Or maybe it’s even more basic. Just that you believe the Bible.

And someone has scoffed at you as ridiculous for believing that stuff.

Do you really believe everything in that book?
Don’t you know that it was written a long time ago?
Don’t you know that science has disproved all of that?
Do you really believe all of that sin stuff and miracles stuff?

That’s why a lot of us are reading that Confronting Christianity book right now.

Because the questions that people are asking out in the culture these days presuppose that Christianity isn’t just false but harmful.

And that there must be something wrong with you if you believe in it.

You believe there is a God who made everything?

“Well, then who made God?”

As if that question really was a stumper.

Have you ever been tempted to disbelieve what you believe because of a scoffer?

How about the resurrection?

Do you believe there is a resurrection to come?

Do you believe that one day those who have died will come back to life?

Do you believe that?

The Sadducees did not.

And they thought they had a stumper of a question to PROVE it.

To make it seem as ridiculous as it clearly was to them.

Look at their test again in verse 23.

“‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us [in Deuteronomy 25] that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. [That’s called Levirate marriage, and it was part of the Torah, the law. The point was to preserve the family name]. Now a hypothetical test question.] Now there were seven brothers among us [1,2,3,4,5,6,7]. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother [Levirate marriage]. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. [2,3,4,5,6,7. You say, “What sad thing for that woman.” Or maybe you say, “How come all of her husbands died?” That’s a deadly woman!] Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’”

Do you understand the question?

I’m sure that they think their hypothetical test question has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no resurrection.

Resurrection is ridiculous!

You just die and turn to dust, and that’s it.

The end. Finis.

Resurrection is ridiculous.

I mean, either there is no resurrection or in the resurrection, there will be rampant polygamy and confusion.

No, resurrection is ridiculous.

Now, how would you answer them?

Would you answer them?

Would you be tempted to just give up on the resurrection?

“Yeah, maybe it’s not true after all.”

“It does kind of sound far fetched.”

Or maybe you would say, “Well the resurrection is taught in the rest of the Old Testament. It’s really clear in Daniel 12, verse 2. ‘Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.’”

Or maybe you’d just say, “I don’t care what you think” and walk away.

Or you’d be silenced and not know what to say.

How would you answer this test?

How do you answer people and think about things when what you believe is under attack as ridiculous?

Well, our Lord Jesus was not intimidated by the Sadducees in the slightest.

In fact, in acing this test, Jesus basically says, “That’s a dumb question. You don’t even know what you’re talking about.” v.29

“Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.’”

Man, how would you like to hear that from the Lord?

I know that I wouldn’t!

In fact, let’s make that our first application point this morning.

Let’s do the opposite of these Sadducees:

#1. KNOW THE SCRIPTURES AND THE POWER OF GOD.

Jesus says that’s where they went wrong, and we don’t want to follow them.

Do you know the Scriptures?

I’m amazed at people who say they want to be Christians but are happy to be ignorant about what the Bible actually says.

We believe that this is God’s Word.

That’s why we have Sunday School classes and Family BIBLE Night. We had a great first night for Family Bible Night on Wednesday, but we were missing a bunch of kids.

We want all of the kids in preschool and elementary and youth to come out on Wednesday Nights for ABC Kids, Kids for Christ, and Youth Class.

And the adults, too. That’s why the adults study the Bible. Joel is going to lead a study this Fall on the attributes of God. What is God really like? Come to Prayer Meeting to find out.

And that’s why we have Link Groups. And why there is Bible at Link Groups.

That’s why we encourage everybody to own a Bible and read their Bibles.

Because Jesus says we need to know the Scriptures and the power God.

Have you been in your Bible this week?

Do you know what it says?

Are you memorizing 1 John 5:11, 12, and 13?

No wonder we are weak when people call us ridiculous if we don’t know our own Scriptures, God’s Word to us.

If you don’t know where to start, talk to me after church. I’ll get you started.

The fact is their Bibles taught the resurrection.

We mentioned Daniel 12. But it’s in Job and Isaiah and the Psalms, too.

And Jesus says, “It’s implied in the Torah, too.”

“You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

Something’s absurd around here, but I don’t think it’s the resurrection.

It’s your assumptions. Your test is absurd.

God has the power to change everything and to bring back the dead to life!

V.30

Jesus says, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

You’re assuming that nothing is going to change.

Things are not going to be just like they are right now.

The age to come is going to be different.

I just listened yesterday to Jim Panaggio’s message from Back 2 School Sunday. That was good stuff, wasn’t it?

This age and the age to come.

The age to come is going to be different because of the power of God.

The resurrection is going to come, and it’s going to change nearly everything.

There will be no more marriage.

“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

News flash: There will be no more marriage in the new heavens and the new earth.

Everything that marriage is supposed to be a foretaste of now will be fulfilled by then.

And while there will be no marriage, it will be better than marriage.

So, don’t worry folks who have not yet been married. You will not miss out on a partner for eternity. There are no partners for eternity.

And don’t worry if you’re in a bad marriage. This life is short, and you won’t be married in the world to come.

And don’t worry if you have a fantastic marriage. The resurrection will be so much better!

And don’t scoff at that like the Sadducees did.

They couldn’t imagine a world without marriage–and certainly couldn’t imagine it being better.

But that was their problem. No more marriage.

Life will be very different in the resurrection because of the power of God.

Do you believe in the power of God?

Do you know the power of God?

At a funeral a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a younger man afterwards, and he said, “I’m afraid to die. I’m not afraid of dying, but I’m afraid of being dead.”

And I said, “I have the exact opposite problem. I don’t want to go through dying, but I’m not scared of death.”

He said, “Why, not?” And I was able to briefly share the gospel with him.

That because Jesus died for our sins and then rose again, and I trust in Him, I don’t have to worry about what it will be like when I’m dead.

He said, “But just laying their in the ground.”

And I said, “My body will lay in the ground, but the Bible says my soul will go to be with the Lord. And then one day, my body will get back up and be united with my spirit, and I will be resurrected.”

And he thought I was talking about reincarnation, but I was like, “No, not as somebody else, but as me, raised and transformed to be like Jesus.”

I’m not sure he could follow me in that.

But that’s what Christians believe.

It is not absurd if you know the power of God.

V.31. Jesus takes it even further.

“But about the resurrection of the dead–have you not read what God said to you [in the Torah], 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’”

Know the Scriptures!

Jesus uses Exodus here. Chapter 3 at the burning bush.

That’s in the Torah.

What did God say?

'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?”

He didn’t say, “I was the God of Abraham.”

“Abraham had been dead for hundreds of years by the time God met Moses at the burning bush.

But God says, “Abraham? Yeah. He’s right here. Yep. And I’ve got eyes on Isaac and Jacob, too.”

“'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’”

And He’s promised to bring the dead back to life.

So they will rise.

Abraham will rise.
Isaac will rise.
Jacob will rise.

All of the dead in Christ will rise.

And live forever.

Because of the power of God.

Do you know the power of God?

Just yesterday I listened to Abe Skacel’s message on Psalm 40.

Wasn’t that good?

“We are dependent on a dependable God.” That’s what he said.

“We are dependent on a dependable God.”

So we can trust Him.

He’s good and powerful enough to keep all of His promises.

Do you need to hear that today?

Know the Scriptures and the power of God.

V.33  “When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.”

Jesus had aced the test.

He did it by basically refusing to take the test!

Now the Pharisees were probably happy that the Sadducees had been put in their place on the resurrection because the Pharisees believed in the resurrection.

But I’m sure they were unhappy that it was Jesus who silenced the Sadducees because they did not want Jesus to be their king.

So they muster up courage to come at him one more time. V.34

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”

I’m not sure why they think that this will stump Jesus.

Maybe they are hoping He will say something that gets Him into trouble with the Law. Maybe saying that something in the Law was not important.

Or maybe it’s just because they have always thought that this was as stumper themselves.

There are like 614 commandments in the Law.

Which one is the most important?

We know the answer to that one, but I read this week that nobody had ever put this together like this before Jesus.

He knew His Bible, and He knew what it said and what it meant, and how it all comes together.

So He just simply aces the test. V.37

“Jesus replied: ‘'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

#2. LOVE YOUR GOD AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR.

That sounds simple, but it’s really profound.

And the Pharisees hated to hear it.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

In other words, with everything within you.

That’s from Deuteronomy 6:5. The Sadducees would’ve had to accept that, too.

That’s the first 4 commandment of the 10 commandments.

Love the Lord your God.

Notice that little word, “your.”

That’s an important little word.

We are not called to love just any God.

But the God of the Bible.

And we’re supposed to make Him ours.

To belong to Him personally.

Is God, “your God?”

Personally?

And do you love Him?

That means, does He come first.

Because it’s the first and greatest commandment. It’s what we are called to do with our lives.

Love Your God.

And the second is like it, “Love your neighbor.”  Like you love yourself.

Do you love yourself?

Yeah, you do.

Even those who “hate themselves” do so because they have a twisted form of corrupted self-love.

Jesus puts these two together as vitally connected.

Love God and love your neighbor.
And then He says that the whole Bible. The whole Old Testament (Law and Prophets) can hang off of these two commands.

All of ethics can be boiled down to that irreducible core.

Love Your God and Love Your Neighbor.

It’s not easy.

It’s not always simple.

It’s not always clear what love is calling us to do in some situations.

We need the rest of the Bible to flesh it out for us.

But this is the core.

Love your God and Love Your Neighbor.

How’re you doing at that?

Where are you falling short?

How can you grow?

I’ve run out of time, but I’ll mention one place that I think we can grow in our love for our neighbors, and that’s in how we talk about them online.

I see lots of rants. Lots of complaining. Lots of ridiculing of various people, especially politicians, on Facebook.

Who is your neighbor?

James says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.”

Like we learned about last week.

God’s image.

We are made in God’s image.

And how we talk about each other shows whether or not we love those who are made in God’s image, and whether we love the One in Whose image we are made.

Where do you need to grow?

Love Your God and Love Your Neighbor sounds great until you have to do it.

Especially when your neighbor turns out to be your enemy.

What about then?

That’s when we find out that we need a Savior.

We find out that we will never ace this test on our own.

We need someone who has aced it for us and gives us His perfect score.

The One Who shouldn’t have been getting tested, and certainly shouldn’t have been put on trial and crucified.

But was and aced the test and came back from the dead to give us life.

We need Jesus.

And praise God, we have Him!


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?

Sunday, September 08, 2019

“Whose Image?” [Matt's Messages]

“Whose Image?”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
September 8, 2019 :: Matthew 22:15-22

The Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of the most compelling Person has ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we’ve studied it together these last two years, we have kept our eyes on the ball and learned about Who Jesus really is and what that means for us as His followers.

We’ve learned about His amazing genealogy. We’ve learned about His miraculous birth. We’ve learned about His baptism under John and the words spoken by the Father over Him, “This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

And we’ve seen Jesus begin His ministry by proclaiming (like John did), “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

He starts talking about this kingdom, and we learned through His teaching what that kingdom is like.

It’s a surprising kingdom. It’s an upside-down and inside-out kingdom that you may not have seen coming, but it’s full of blessing and flourishing.

And we’ve seen Jesus do miracle after miracle as a foretaste of the glories to come.

And all along, Jesus has been calling people of all walks of life to come and follow Him. To be His disciples. To put our trust in Him and follow Him with our lives.

He called a tax-collector named Matthew to do that. And He’s calling us to follow Him today.

In fact, He’s sending us out to call others to follow Him. There is a major missionary theme running through the gospel of Matthew. Followers making new followers.

To follow the Lord of the Harvest.
And the Lord of the Sabbath.
And the Lord of Marriage.
And the Lord of All.

And all along, Matthew has kept his eye on the ball and showed us Who Jesus is.

And it all came to a head in chapter 16 when Jesus asked them the question, “Who do you say that I am?”

And the answer was, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And from that time on, Jesus has been heading towards Jerusalem and this last fateful week. Holy Week. Passion Week. The Crucial Week where Jesus is on an unswerving course to the Cross.

The One Who was transfigured, and the Father said it again then, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

This One Who was transfigured was going to be disfigured.

This One Who healed others was going to suffer under shame.

This One Who saved others would not save Himself.

This One Who should be served instead serves and gives life as a ransom for many.

We’ve seen that Jesus knows what is coming.

Jesus is choosing what is coming.

That’s why on Sunday, He rode into town on a donkey.

And they were shouting for the Son of David! “Hosanna!”

Then on Monday, He was tossing tables in the temple, protesting the profiteering going on in His Father’s house.

And then He’s doing a miracle of destruction (one of the very few) and withering the fig tree because it wasn’t producing its expected fruit. And that’s a picture of the fruit that He expects from us.

And then on Tuesday, this story today also takes place on Tuesday, Jesus begins to wrestle in public with the Jewish Religious Authorities.

They want to know by what authority He is doing what He does.

And Jesus answers them by asking questions that revealed their bankruptcy.

“John’s baptism–where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”

Remember that?

He kind of put them between a rock and hard place, didn’t He?

They said, “We don’t know.” Because they didn’t want to know.

And then Jesus basically answers the question with three parables that all show that His authority comes from God.

Parables that call people to repent while there is still time.

Because time is running out.

And the kingdom is coming because the king has arrived.

Well the Pharisees are not yet done.

They are not happy about how this is going, but they are not giving up.

In today’s story (verses 15 through 22), they try to spring a trap on Jesus.

They try to put Jesus between a Rock and Hard Place.

{Pro-tip, never try to put Jesus between a Rock and Hard Place. It never goes well for you.}

But these folks have not yet learned that lesson.

Jesus silences them, basically with a question. He turns the tables on them with a simple question and a simple statement, but very profound.

It’s boils down to this, “Whose Image Is This?”

“Whose Image?”

They think they’ve got Him cornered.

They don’t like what He’s been saying.

They especially didn’t like that part where He told the story about the Son who was killed by the wicked tenants and how the owner of the vineyard came back and killed those who killed His Son.

And they especially didn’t like the story when the king destroyed the city because they had rejected His Son and refused to come to His wedding banquet.

They didn’t like where this was going, and they had to get rid of Jesus.

So they lay a trap. Verse 15.

“Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”

There’s the trap.

First off, notice who is there trying to lay the trap.

The Pharisees and the Herodians.

Those two are not natural allies. They are natural adversaries.

The Pharisees were known for being very nationalistic and very religious.

The Herodians wanted the family of Herod which was placed in power by the Roman Empire to prosper.

Those are two very different goals.

But neither of them wanted Jesus to be their king.

And so they bring a “gotcha” question to Jesus.

First, they start by trying to flatter Jesus which is really funny.

Because He is immune to flattery, and yet everything they say about Him is actually true.

They don’t mean it, but it’s true!

We know that “[y]ou are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.”

That’s true.

Jesus is not impressed by status or reputations, and He more truthful than the day is long.

So He’s not thrown off when they throw out the trick question:

“Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

What’s the answer to that one?

I know what I want to be the answer!

I don’t like paying taxes.

Do you see why this is a trap question?

What is the Rock and what is the Hard Place?

If Jesus answers that paying taxes to Caesar is wrong, then He’ll get into trouble with Caesar. With Rome.

The people will love it.

But the Empire will not.

And Jesus will get in trouble.

The Herodians would report Him to the Romans.

But the Hard Place?

If Jesus says that it is right to pay taxes to Caesar, the Pharisees will report Him to the people.

And He’ll lose popularity as being in league with Rome.

And that’s exactly what they want.

They want Him to lose popularity.

They could do something about Him if He wasn’t so popular.

But did you hear those people when He came in on the donkey?

The Pharisees care so much about popularity.

They don’t really care about truth.

So, they think they have Him.

But they never have Him.

“Is it right for to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

What is the answer to that one?

What if we don’t like what Caesar does with our taxes?

Well, Jesus sees right through them.

He knows that they are trying to flatter Him and butter Him up.

Jesus never goes for that.  Don’t try it with Him.  V.18

“But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?  Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar's,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.’ When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.”

Jesus says, “Give me a coin.”

Interestingly, they have one. Right? They have already answered their question for themselves. They carry around these coins.

These are Roman coins.

This is a picture of one.

This is one minted during the reign of Caesar Augustus.

During Jesus’ day, Tiberius was Caesar. And his coins said in Latin on them, “Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of divine Augustus.”

How do you think the Jews would have felt about coins like that?

But they had ‘em.  They used ‘em.

They paid their taxes with them.

This tax is specifically the poll tax. It wasn’t the taxes that the tax-collectors picked up, these were just the “privilege to breath” taxes that went right to the Caesar.

“Privilege to Live” taxes.

And they normally cost one denarius. Which is what Jesus now held in His hand.

And asks, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

The 2011 NIV has “image” instead of “portrait.” The ESV says, “likeness.”

The Greek word is “eikon.”

Image.

“Whose image?”

They probably hated to spit out “Caesar.”

But Jesus has no problem saying one of the most profound sentences ever uttered:

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

And that’s our two application points for this morning.

#1.  GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S.

Now, this does not mean that Caesar (or Rome or any government) owns all of the money and God does not.

Just because your face is on something, that doesn’t make you the owner of everything your face on.

Ultimately, we know that God owns everything.

But it does mean that Jesus thinks that the “state” is legitimate and has a legitimate claim on our submission.

We should pay our taxes.

Paul takes this idea and fleshes it out more fully in Romans 13 where He say:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”

Of course, that doesn’t answer all of the questions we have about relating to civil authorities, but it’s pretty clear in the main.

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

We, as Christians, should be making every effort to pay what we owe.

One “conscience-stricken taxpayer” wrote the IRS, “Dear Sir, My conscience bothered me. Here is the $175 which I owe in back taxes.  P.S.  If my conscience still bothers me, I’ll send the rest.” [Hughes, pg. 268]

And, of course, it’s bigger than taxes. Jesus is saying that we need to be submissive citizens to our government.

Not if the government asks us to worship it.

Only Jesus is Lord.

And not if the government asks us to sin.

We must obey God rather than man.

But even if the government is wicked, we must submit to its authority.

Pay your taxes, drive the speed-limit, obey the laws–even the ones you don’t like.

When Paul wrote what I just read to you in Romans 13, the Caesar was Nero.

Nero was thoroughly wicked.  He was Hitler-level wicked.

But Paul urged the Christ-followers in Romans 13 to be submissive to the government authorities whenever they could in good conscience.

Give to Caesar What Is Caesar’s.

That was a very unpopular thing for Jesus to say.

Jesus was getting close to Hard Place, steering away from the Rock.

But He was unafraid of doing the right thing, of saying the right thing.

And that’s not all He said.

He didn’t just say “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” did He?

No, He was much more profound.

I think that second part of His statement is bigger and more important and deeper and more meaningful.

#2. GIVE TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S.

He’s talking about us.

This is a US quarter, a 25 cent piece.

It has George Washington’s face on it.

Give to Washington what is Washington’s.

Jesus asks, what IMAGE (that’s an important biblical word, isn’t it? what IMAGE) is stamped on YOU?

The image of God, right?

Genesis chapter 1. The Imago Dei.

“So God made man in His own image.”

We are the image of God.

Is that image lost with the Fall?

No. It’s cracked. Like a throwing a rock into a mirror. It’s still there.

It’s not what it’s supposed to be. But through Christ it’s being restored. It’s still there.

Whose image is stamped on you?

So what does God want?  He wants you and me.

Give to God what is God’s.

And I think that’s what amazed the people when Jesus answered like this.

Not only did He give a straight, unpopular answer to the question, but He took the answer in a direction that forced people to consider whether or not they were giving themselves to God as He deserved.

Rome may deserve some taxes for providing good roads and building aqueducts and providing some protection from outside forces and minting useful money.

But God deserves so much more!

Do you think of yourself as devoted to God? Belonging to God? God’s rightful possession?

I think that one of the major mistakes in our thinking, especially as Americans, is that we often think of ourselves as our own possession.

“It’s my body.”
“It’s my bank account.”
“It’s my bonus.”
“It’s my car.”
“It’s my computer.”
“It’s my thought-life.”
“It’s my relationship.”
“It’s my life.”
“It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”

But that’s ultimately not true.

All humans (even nonChristians) are stamped with the image of God.

“Give to God what is God’s.”

So here’s the application question for today:

What are you holding back from God?

If you had to write it down. Maybe it’s just one thing.

Or maybe there is a long list.

What are holding back from God in yourself?

Give to God what is God’s.

You’ve got His image.

He wants you.

He wants a life-changing relationship with you.

He loves you.

And He wants you to love Him back.

To trust Him and obey Him and want His glory to be magnified.

He wants YOU.

And you owe Him.

Because you, if you are a Christian, are double-stamped.

Not just stamped at creation with the image of God, but stamped with redemption.

Because Jesus bought you back.

Give to God, what is God’s.

You are double stamped.

Because Jesus paid your debt.

And it wasn’t just a little denarius tax.

It was the whole enchilada.

It was all of your sin and all of my sin and all our shame heaped upon Jesus.

And He paid the penalty.

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Give to God what is God’s by ownership and by redemption.

Give yourself to God.

Don’t hold anything back.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Escaping Bitterness

"Almost everyone I've seen who has been trapped by bitterness has focused on the big dying and been blind to multiple mini-resurrections in their lives. Almost counterintuitively, the most thankful and happy people I know are confined to wheelchairs. The very deep J-Curves, in my experience, force you (if you take that path) so deeply into Christ that you emerge from them singing in prison.

During some of my lowest years, I tuned myself into the 'resurrection channel' by beginning the early morning habit of reviewing the previous day and thanking God for little mercies, little resurrections. When everything was dark, the Spirit prompted me to hunt for life. People cultivate bitterness by retelling the story of what life has done to them. We can cultivate joy by watching for the Spirit to re-enact the story of Jesus's dying and rising."

- Paul Miller, J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life pg. 238-239

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

6 Years of "Resisting Gossip"

Rejoice with me! 

Resisting Gossip has been out now for six whole years.

I am filled with gratefulness as I think about all of the places it’s gone and how it has helped people to win the war of the wagging tongue.

Audiobooks!

The biggest news from the last 12 months has been the production and release of the audiobook version of Resisting Gossip. I first recorded the chapters in the Fall of 2013 and Spring of 2014, but we never got it edited and produced into an audiobook until this last year. 

I’m thankful for everybody who helped get it out there and for its initial reception from folks like Todd Hardin:

Potato Heads?

The strangest story about Resisting Gossip from the last year was discovering how this pastor from down-under has created a set of potato-heads to illustrate the five kinds of gossips from chapter 3. How creative!

Articles and Interviews.

I didn’t do very much writing about gossip this last year. There is more to be said, of course, but I haven’t felt called be the one to say it. But I did publish a short piece of how NOT to use the book (and why I wrote it like I did) and also did two interviews with the folks at CLC Publications, one that surveys the last several years (including links to the 6 languages its currently in) and one that focuses on the release of the audiobook.




But Most of All Readers.

The best part of being the author continues to be hearing from people whom the book has helped. When I Google the title, I still find it being used in small groups and Bible studies and referred to in sermon series and edifying articles. And every once in a while I get an encouraging note like this one from Allison, a librarian from the suburbs of Chicago:
"Resisting Gossip is a book I re-read every 1-2 years, and each time, I glean important reminders. I just completed it from my summer 2019 reading list, and I continue to learn and be convicted by it. This time, I wrote, 'I don't have to say everything I think!' in my planner. Thank you again for writing a book that equips Christians to live in a way that 'goes against the tide.'"
I praise the Lord that my work gets to be used like this in people’s lives.

And Some Quotes and Pictures.

The team at CLC also created some sharp looking graphics for sharing more broadly: